Meeting Planners Share 2010 Successes, 2011 Resolutions
by Harvey Chipkin /

Surprise successes and great moments are possible – and greatly appreciated – in a tough business year.

Several meeting planners shared their favorite on-the-job experiences in 2010, and their professional resolutions for 2011, with Travel Market Report meetings editor Harvey Chipkin. 

Pat Ahaesy, CMP
P&V Enterprises, New York

Pat Ahaesy’s surprise success for 2010 was generating an “unexpected sale” through social media.

Ahaesy contacted a potential client via a mutual connection on LinkedIn, the business-oriented social network. The response was, “Sure, but I have no business to give you as we have put all meetings and events on hold.”

Ahaesy told the contact that it didn’t matter and set up an appointment to meet. “We met for lunch and hit it off immediately; she was a very nice woman,” Ahaesy said. About a month later “she e-mailed me and said she had an event for me after all. It was a success. Then, a couple of months later, she had another series of incentive projects for me. Those were also very successful.”

All of this “was a big surprise and a delight,” Ahaesy said. “I guess we really did hit it off at our first meeting.”

As a result of incidents like that, Ahaesy’s business resolution for 2011 is, “I will be proactive in asking for referrals from current clients, just like all the business coaches and business articles suggest. I used to think that was terrible manners, but I’ve found that it’s not the situation at all. It’s standard operating procedure.”

Kathy Lind

Senior events planner
Sun Life Financial, Kitchener, Canada

Kathy Lind learned an important lesson in 2010: giving back to the local community can make a meeting more meaningful and successful for participants – and garner professional recognition for the planner who made it happen.

“I was the lead planner for an incentive trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic,” Lind told Travel Market Report. “The event was our Elite Conference, which consists of our top advisors and managers in Canada along with their spouses and family members. Rather than take the group on a high-end activity – in 2009 we gave them a VIP experience at Universal Studios in California followed by a dinner at a private mansion in Beverly Hills – I convinced our senior executives to give back to the community. “I took a bit of a risk,” said Lind, “and it certainly paid off.”

Prior to the conference, Sun Life made a “generous donation” to Vista Alegre, a local school in Punta Cana. The donation was used to install a new roof, electricity, a septic system and ceiling fans.

During the trip itself attendees were asked if they wanted to participate in a fix-up of the school.

The response from attendees “was overwhelming,” said Lind. Over 100 Elite incentive qualifiers, their spouses, partners, and even some children signed on to work at the school for a day. They cleaned up the grounds and landscaped, built a playground and basketball court, and scraped and painted the school inside and outside.

“Most people brought suitcases full of supplies for the children and one financial center purchased a new pair of running shoes for every child in the school,” Lind told Travel Market Report. “We gave them knapsacks, t-shirts, baseball caps, vitamins, toys, candies and school supplies.”

At the end of the day, the advisors who took part in the project each committed to donating an additional $50 per person to the school, and Kevin Dougherty, president of SLF Canada, agreed to match the total amount to purchase new school desks for each child and the teachers.

After the event, “I received many phone calls, cards and e-mails from the attendees saying it was the highlight of the six-day incentive in Punta Cana,” Lind said. “As a result of the event’s success, I became a recipient of an “i-star award”, a company employee recognition program which recognizes stellar performance. This was my highlight of not only 2010, but of my 24-plus year career with the company.”

Andrea O’Carroll
Director, strategy & operations, Dayton, Ohio

Andrea O’Carroll’s most memorable business moment in 2010 was finding a way to get her incentive clients to Europe when volcanic ash wreaked havoc with air travel throughout Europe just as the group of 600 was set to depart.

“We got about 80% of them there, and feel that we did a great job in getting the people there who really wanted to go,” she said.

O’Carroll’s resolution for 2011 involves moderation. “We are not going back to the way it was,” she said. “This industry has been a bit over the top as far as some excesses, and we are going to have to adjust to different kind of budgeting and strategy.”

Tracy Norum
Vice president
Fox Premier Meetings & Incentives, Oshkosh, Wisc.

Tracy Norum’s business highlight for 2010 was being named as one of the top 25 people in her field by a leading meetings magazine for the third year in a row. 

Norum said it’s a shared honor, and the distinction is a testament to her team’s “talent and ability to develop and deliver solutions and exceptional experiences for our clients.” She also attributed it to “our valuable industry partners for their supreme support and knowledge.”

To maintain her own and her team’s momentum, Norum’s resolutions for 2011 include: continuing to exhibit passion, integrity and the pursuit of perfection in providing exceptional solutions for clients; further embracing the power of social media; learning something new every day; giving back to the industry; and “leaving a notable, positive footprint in the communities where our events are held.”